Rat rods rock as rusty rides
Peter Duvaloois' rat rods are way cooler than your car.
The fast machines are pieced together from vintage parts and scrapyard finds. They also are rustier and turn more heads on the highway.
That's pretty much the point of rat rods. They look like hot rods, from after the world has ended. While both are generally low-slung and loud, rat rods wear their rust proudly. They never touch a buff cloth. Duvaloois is among a horde of creative gear heads expressing their affection for the vintage vehicles. The builders rearrange them into something both new and old-looking.
"I'm not particularly interested in how fast the truck will go," Duvaloois said. "I'm interested in how cool it looks getting there."
Duvaloois is building a rat rod based on an orange '35 Ford public works truck. His garage is called the Rat's Nest. It's about 90 miles north of New York City. The 63-year-old retiree has raced stock cars and built hot rods. But he likes the more easygoing vibe of the rat rod crowd.
"I'll go to a show and a lot of times you'll have the shiny cars there and the signs all over them: 'Don't Touch! Don't Touch!'" he said. "I've had a whole Boy Scout troop go through my truck."
Rat rods have been around for decades. Some say the name stems from hot rodders dismissing the "ratty" looks of other cars. There is no formal definition. Many have low clearances, open wheels and round headlights flanking old-school grilles. Volume counts, too.
A rat rod is simply a blue-collar hot rod, argues Rat Rod Magazine editor Steve Thaemert.
"We're returning to the roots of hot rodding. Basically, where you're trying to build something cool with what you had," Thaemert said. "You wanted it to be fast and you wanted it to be loud and aggressive. And it didn't have to be perfect. It was a poor man's entry into hot rodding."
Thaemert's magazine Facebook page has more than 1.5 million likes. The Web is full of pictures of enthusiasts' creations. Hundreds of rat rodders rumble in every summer for Duvaloois' Hudson Valley gatherings.
Duvaloois' current rat rod project should be ready to roll by the August gathering. The public works truck from the nearby City of Kingston is chopped down. It's shortened and has a '50 Olds Rocket engine under the hood. Duvaloois doesn't use blueprints. He says he can't draw. He uses paper cutouts and temporarily tacks the vehicle together to make sure it all fits.
"I get such a kick out of driving this thing," he said during a quick jaunt.
Critical thinking challenge: What makes rat rods seem cartoonish?